Former health minister Norman Lamb is leading calls for HIV-preventing drugs to be available on the NHS – after a decision was stalled for two years.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can drastically reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV by up to 99 percent, if taken daily.
The drug has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation and is already routinely available to at-risk men in a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, France and Israel.
In the UK, a two-year study found the drug was greatly effective at reducing the risk of HIV transmission – but in a surprise U-turn this week, NHS England kicked the issue into the long grass today by ordering a further two-year study at “early implementer test sites” instead of a wider roll-out.
Health Minister Jane Ellison later insisted that NHS England needs more evidence that HIV-preventing drugs are “cost effective” before a wider roll-out.
However, former minister Norman Lamb has called for NHS England to reconsider – tabling an Early Day Motion on the issue.
The Liberal Democrat MP, who was Minister of State at the Department of Health during the Coalition, said the decision was indefensible.
His EDM reads: “This House raises serious concerns over the recent decision by NHS England to delay the national roll-out of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV.
“[This House] notes that this decision was made despite overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of PrEP in reducing infection with HIV in high-risk groups, including the PROUD study which showed that PrEP reduced the risk of infection by 86 per cent.
“[This House] further notes that HIV transmission rates are increasing not only in the men who have sex with men population but also among BME communities and heterosexual women; affirms that PrEP, which is already available in other countries such as France, the US, Canada, Kenya and Israel, is a crucial part of the armoury in the fight against HIV and could prevent 7,400 new cases of the infection by 2020.”
It continues: “[This House] believes that NHS England’s announcement of PrEP test sites over the next two years is unnecessary in light of the clinical evidence available, and is concerned that this may be intended to avoid acceptance of responsibility for commissioning HIV prevention treatments rather than local authorities.
“[This House] further believes that, as an essential treatment, responsibility for commissioning PrEP should lie with NHS England rather than local authorities.
“[This House] and urges the Government to intervene as a matter of urgency to ensure that NHS England takes the steps necessary for PrEP to be considered as part of the next annual CPAG prioritisation process so that all high-risk groups are able to access the treatment as soon as possible.”